Former CIA Director John Brennan told House Russia investigators Tuesday that Russia "brazenly interfered" in the United States elections, including actively contacting members of President Donald Trump's campaign - but he stopped shy of dubbing it "collusion". "It raised questions in my mind about whether Russian Federation was able to gain the cooperation of those individuals".
"I don't know whether or not such collusion - and that's your term - such collusion existed", Brennan said. "I don't know. But I know there was sufficient intelligence.to warrant investigation by the (FBI)". Trump fired FBI Director James Comey earlier this month, prompting reports that the president tried to steer Comey away from Flynn and the Russian Federation investigation. Comey's dismissal came in the middle of an Federal Bureau of Investigation probe into Russian meddling in the election and possible collusion with Trump's campaign, leading to accusations by Trump critics that the Republican president has sought to curtail the Federal Bureau of Investigation inquiry, which could potentially amount to obstruction of justice.
The Washington Post reported Monday that Trump asked Coats and the head of the National Security Agency to publicly deny that there had been collusion between the Russians and the Trump campaign. He said the CIA is in the business of gathering intelligence, not evidence.
His testimony comes a day after former Trump national security adviser Michael Flynn refused to hand over documents to the Senate Intelligence Committee, which is also investigating Russian interference in the election, in response to a congressional subpoena from that committee.
He said he did not know if this amounted to outright collusion.
The former acting attorney general, Sally Yates, previously told Congress that the Justice Department was concerned that Flynn was compromised by the Russians and could be vulnerable to blackmail as Trump's national security adviser because of misleading statements he made to the vice president about his communications with the Russian ambassador to the U.S. Trump in February fired Flynn over the misleading statements, but he has since defended Flynn and his integrity.
The former Central Intelligence Agency director warned that he does not believe the Russians are done trying to interfere in America's elections and could try to influence the 2018 congressional elections.
"I said American voters would be outraged by any attempt to interfere in the election", he added. "The Russian intelligence threat is a serious one".
"It should be clear to everyone that Russian Federation brazenly interfered in our 2016 presidential election process and that they undertook these activities despite our strong protest and explicit warnings that they not do so", Brennan said. But if reports about what Trump shared with the Russians are true, he said, it would be a violation of protocol. "Mr. Putin and Russian officials are trying to actively exploit what is going on now in Washington to their benefit and to our detriment".
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John Brennan says that when he was Central Intelligence Agency director he shared classified information with Russian Federation and other nations about threats related to terrorism.
Brennan also denounced classified intelligence leaks that continue to appear in the news media, including the nature of the Oval Office conversation Trump shared with the Russian foreign minister and ambassador to the USA where he reportedly revealed highly classified intelligence reportedly shared with the U.S.by Israel.
He declined to elaborate, saying the information was classified.
He said it "appears from press reports that it (the intelligence Trump shared) didn't go through proper channels".
He said he raised media reports of Russian attempts to meddle in the election with Bortnikov, who denied any involvement by Moscow. He said he told Bortnikov that Russian interference "would destroy any near-term prospect of improvement" in the relationship between the USA and Russia. He said the Russian official denied such interference but also said he would relay the concern to President Vladimir Putin.
Brennan's testimony was the first public confirmation of the worry at high levels of the USA government previous year over suspicious contacts between Trump campaign associates and Moscow.
Former CIA chief Brennan's testimony to the House intelligence committee was the clearest public indication yet of the significance the Russian Federation contacts play in counterintelligence investigations that continue to hang over the White House.
Both the Senate and the House intelligence committees are investigating Flynn and other Trump campaign associates as part of probes into Russia's election meddling.